goodloe-johnson firing.jpg
So now we're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy out schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who is expected to be shown the door at

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The Silver Lining of Seattle Schools' Financial Scandal

goodloe-johnson firing.jpg
So now we're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy out schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who is expected to be shown the door at this evening's school board meeting. And this fall, when the board starts searching for a permanent replacement, we'll quite likely spend thousands more on one of those high-priced consultants deemed necessary to vet candidates. Is there any bright side to this? Yes!

Board vice-president Michael DeBell expresses it when he says of the superintendent: "I believe it's a good thing that she's departing at this time."

DeBell (one clearheaded board member who should not be fired, despite Rick Anderson's urging earlier today) is not talking about the need to hold Goodloe-Johnson accountable for the blatant financial misdeeds that happened on her watch. Rather he's referencing something arguably more important: the now-toxic relationship between the superintendent and her teaching staff.

In a series of no-confidence votes over the summer and fall, teachers have said loud and clear that they don't like their boss.

"I've talked to school board directors around the country, and they all say that something like that is not sustainable," DeBell says.

At times, it has been hard to pinpoint the reason for the teachers' venom. It doesn't stem from any single decision, but rather a series of moves that seemingly led teachers to believe that Goodloe-Johnson, like a national reform movement she is associated with, blames them for all the problems that ail public education.

In retrospect, DeBell says he regrets not getting teachers involved in a five-year strategic plan the superintendent rolled out in 2008. Instead, the district brought in an outside consulting firm called McKinsey & Company to help it draft the plan. It instituted much more centralization, and limited teachers' ability to make curriculum choices.

The art of teaching seems to have been lost on Goodloe-Johnson, whose devotion to the "data" from constant testing ruled the day.

Her ouster gives the district an opportunity to reconnect with teachers--and the public, which found it difficult to warm to a superintendent that showed little warmth herself, but an extensive command of education jargon. And it's a chance to reopen the debates over how much centralization and testing we want.

By all means, the board should look for a new superintendent who can get the district's financial house in order, and it's unclear whether the soon-to-be-anointed interim super, current chief academic officer Susan Enfield, is that person. But the district also needs a superintendent who can inspire teachers rather than rule over them.

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